|HOW GOD GETS OUR ATTENTION
HIS GLORY REIGNS
Jul 30 2010 08:00 A.M.
People remember World War II for many reasons, but as a small child in Virginia, I particularly recall the shrill civil
defense sirens that could pierce the air at any time of day. No matter what activity I was engaged in, the blast of the
siren riveted my attention.
Similarly, when God speaks to us, we must recognize that His message is of utmost importance, deserving our full and
complete concentration. Lest we become dull and insensitive to His voice, God has His ways of gaining our undivided
When we walk in the Spirit, our spiritual antennas are alert to God, and we can hear what He is saying. This is the
normal Christian life, living keenly responsive to the voice of God in whatever fashion He may choose to speak to us.
We can be involved in our businesses or our families and hear God say something, and we immediately know what to do.
The problem is that we don’t always walk in the Spirit. There are times when we choose to do things our own way. We
are headed so fast in a given direction that if God spoke, we couldn’t hear Him because we simply are not tuned in to
God is aware of this problem. To rectify it, He uses many ways of getting our total, absolute attention to what He wants to
communicate. More than likely you will discover that God has already used one or more of these principles in your life to
get your attention. Perhaps you will discover the solution to a problem that has been hampering your spiritual
effectiveness over a period of time. You may find that the problem you thought you had was simply God’s way of trying
to get you to focus on Him.
A RESTLESS SPIRIT
The sixth chapter of Esther is a beautiful example of God’s working through a restless spirit. In this case, it involved King
Ahasuerus who had been unwittingly duped by his prime minister, Haman. Because Haman hated all Jews, especially
Esther’s relative, Mordecai, he had tricked the king into signing an edict for the destruction of the Jews - men, women,
and children – all in one day.
After he had signed the proclamation, the king could not sleep because of a restless spirit. Esther 6:1 reports, “That
night the king could not sleep. So one was commanded to bring the book of the records of the chronicles; and they were
read before the king.”
Then the king discovered that Mordecai, whom Haman wanted to kill (along with the other Jews), had actually saved the
king’s life earlier by reporting a death plot by two men. Instead of the Jews being killed, Haman was executed and
Mordecai honored. And it all started with a restless spirit, sent by the Lord to King Ahasuerus.
I believe one of the simplest ways God can get our attention is to make us restless. We may be going about our
vocations, or our church or home lives, when a restlessness begins to stir within our spirits. We can’t put a finger on it;
we don’t know why it is happening – but we have an uneasiness in our hearts. When such a time comes, the wise thing
to do is to stop and ask the Lord what he is trying to say.
In my life, God frequently uses a persistent restlessness to direct me. I can look back and recall from my diary that every
single time God has moved me from one pastorate to another, I have become restless for several months beforehand. It
was His way of prompting me to seek Him so that when the time came, I would be ready to hear from Him. When you
become restless in your spirit, don’t run. Simply stop and listen to the voice of God.
A WORD FROM OTHERS
A second way God gets our attention is speaking to us through others. Probably the best known example is Nathan’s
confrontation with David in II Samuel 12.
Having sinned against God in the incident with Bathsheba and Uriah, David apparently continued his reign without any
visible evidence of a guilty conscience.
II Samuel 12:1 sets the stage: “Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said…” God had given
insight to Nathan that David desperately needed to hear.
I can remember one day when I was in the process of making a decision, a friend stopped by the house. In our
conversation, he informed me that God had spoken to him that morning in prayer and had given him a particular
message for me. I was to spend the next day fasting and praying before I made my decision. Well, to begin with, he did
not even know I was in the process of making a decision, so I quickly discerned God’s hand in the matter. The next day I
fasted and prayed. Before the day was over, God had given me very distinct direction that was absolutely contrary to
my original thoughts.
That is why we must learn to listen with an open heart to the voice of God as He speaks through others. If we are proud
and egotistical and can’t take direction from anyone, we need to read the book of Proverbs in which God repeatedly
says that a man who cannot take criticism or reproof is destined for failure. Proverbs commends the man who learns to
receive godly rebuke and thus succeeds in life.
However, we must be extremely careful in this regard, for sometimes others, no matter how well intentioned, can lead us
astray. When Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, became king, he sought counsel from the elders who had served his father.
He needed advice in regard to a request from the people that he lighten the burden of service imposed by Solomon.
The elders advised Rehoboam to agree to the people’s request and reap the rewards of kingly benevolence. Rather
than listen, he went for further counsel from his own associates. They recommended he bring the people into even
He listened to the latter suggestion, and as a result, the nation of Israel split into the northern and southern kingdoms. It
was a tragic decision. Heeding the voice of men who were not in right relationship with God cost him greatly (see II
Therefore, while we surely know God speaks through other people, we must carefully examine both message and
messenger. But, God has to the power to know what is going on within us, and He has the power to place a burden
upon someone else to say a word to us, even when the message doesn’t appear logical at all.
A third way God speaks is through blessing us in most unusual ways. This is the sort of attention getting method that I
enjoy. Paul illustrated this in Romans 2:4 when he wrote: "Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance,
and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?"
God can use unusual, abundant blessings to gain our attention. The blessings may be spiritual or financial, or they may
have something to do with the home or a vocation. Whatever they are, God just seems to pile them upon us. God can't
use that method on everyone, because selfish people would get more independent, more self-centered, and more self-
seeking and would totally ignore God. But He does get our attention by blessing us because the motive behind each of
His methods is His love for us.
He sees our future, He sees our present. He sees His plan for us. He sees our plan. He sees them on a collision
course, and when that happens, out of an expression of His love, He will get our attention so that we might listen to Him
and be saved from ultimate ruin.
Isn't that exactly what we do with our children? If we saw our children headed for trouble, wouldn't we out of love do
something to stop them? Wouldn't we give them a word of wisdom to protect them from wrecking their lives?
For instance, if you knew your son was beginning to hang around with a group of boys who were noted for their minor
run-ins with the law, wouldn't you sit down with him and warn him of the dangers involved? Wouldn't you urge him to
make sure his friends had a positive influence in his life, and wouldn't you convey the fact that "bad company corrupts
good morals"? Of course you would. You would go to great lengths to establish proper bearings for your son to steer
his life by, and God does no less for us.
The fourth method God uses to get our attention is through unanswered prayer. As long as our petitions are sufficiently
grants, we can cruise along enjoying God's blessings and provision. But when a particularly urgent need arises and the
heavens are brass, God has our complete attention.
Often, such seeming silence is a ripe time to conduct a spiritual self-examination under the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
God's Word indicates there are reasons why some supplications are not answered - asking for the wrong reasons
(James 4:3), disobedience (I John 3:22), asking outside of the will of God (I John 5:14), among others. We should ask
God if any of these problems have affected us.
According to I Peter 3:7, unanswered or unfruitful prayer can even stem from insensitivity in a marriage relationship.
Peter stated that a husband's prayers are "hindered" if he isn't loving his wife as he should.
At times God refuses to answer our prayers because He knows that if He answers them, we will stray further off base.
That is why Satan will be more than happy to help us get an answer to everything we want outside the will of God,
because he knows pleasure today may mean trouble tomorrow. Closed doors to prayer may sometimes be a sign of
God's hand working to redirect our focus to another needful area of our lives.
The Lord used Paul's thorn as a teaching tool that has ministered to countless millions of believers (see II Corinthians 12:
7). His prayer went unanswered, but at the same time, his focus shifted from considering the severity of his problem to a
new understanding of God's grace. When Paul opened his letters with his familiar "grace and peace" salutation, he well
knew the meaning of the phrase. Unanswered prayer brought Paul into a new dimension of dependence on God.
Numbers 14 depicts how God uses disappointment to cause us to heed His voice. In the preceding chapter, the nation
of Israel, fresh out of Egyptian bondage, was headed to the Promised Land. Twelve spies were sent into the Promised
Land, but they came back and gave a negative report. The committee voted ten to two against possessing what God
had already promised to provide for them in battle.
Numbers 26-35 relates God's judgement upon the nation of Israel because of their unbelief and unwillingness to
possess what God had provided for them. The people realized their mistake and attempted to rectify the problem with a
change of heart. Numbers 14:40 says, "And they rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain,
saying, 'Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised, for we have sinned!'" Moses
responds in verse 42, "Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the LORD is not among you."
Talk about getting their attention! The Israelites had just come out of Egyptian bondage. They had on their backs the
stripes of the taskmasters of Egypt. They could still smell the same old food they had been eating for hundreds of
years. Now, they stood on the threshold of a land flowing with milk and honey, which God had promised them, but
unbelief blinded them.
There was a tremendous sense of letdown, followed by mourning and weeping. It was too late - but God got their
attention. He showed them that their unbelief would cause every single adult to die wandering in the wilderness like that
Sometimes the greatest disappointments in life are God's attention-getters. You may be planning to marry; everything is
all set. You've talked to the florist and the preacher, and then think, God, what in the world are YOU doing? Why have
You allowed this to happen in my life? What are You doing to me, God? It may well be that God in His loving plan
reached down and stopped the wrong marriage and the disappointment got your attention. Otherwise, you might have
continued doing what you thought was right, rather than doing the will of God.
We frequently have the tendency to blame God for our disappointments, making Him the object of our wrath. When Job
was engulfed with disaster, his wife mocked him, saying, "Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!"
(Job 2:9). Satan obviously was at work trying to distort Job's view of God.
Job responded with this marvelous statement: "Shall we indeed accept good from God, and not accept adversity?"
(verse 10). His attitude toward the extreme disappointment and heartache was amazing.
Thus, the way we respond to disappointment is extremely important. We allow Satan to point his ugly finger at us and
tell us that we are not worth anything, that God doesn't really love us anymore. I have heard people say this for years.
When great disappointment comes, they wring their hands and become angry and bitter toward God. They fail to realize
that God saved them from ruining their lives. The wise response when disappointment comes is always to ask God what
He is trying to teach us and then respond to our disappointment with new insight into God's plans and purposes.
Unusual circumstances, the fifth method to get our attention, often cause us to turn our eyes and hearts to God. The
story of Moses is a vivid example. Moses had grown up in Pharaoh's household. No doubt he was a tremendous warrior
and a competent military strategist. One day, however, he decided to take things into his own hands - he killed an
Egyptian soldier. He fled for his life, and the next forty years he spent on the backside of the desert in Midian, wearing
the same old odorous clothes and tending a small bunch of sheep.
Because Moses was a strong-willed man and had to be broken, God got his attention. We read in Exodus 3:1-2:
of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of
fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not
Moses had seen lots of fires and lots of burning bushes, but he had never seen a bush that blazed and was not
consumed! His response was recorded in verses 3 and 4:
Then Moses said, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn." So when the LORD saw
that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush, and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said,
"Here I am."
Out of an unusual experience, God got his attention. Moses had to stop his daily routine to see what was going on.
When he did, God spoke to him.
We must learn to live for the presence of God in every circumstance of life. A child of God, walking in the Spirit, is to
look for the handiwork, the footprint, and the handprint of almighty God in every single situation of life. God is
sovereign, and we are His children. There is no such thing as an accident in the life of a child of God. There are some
things God may allow. There are some things that God sends. There are attention-getters that God brings into our
lives, but there are no accidents.
Suppose your boss says that he is going to have to let you go. You can respond in one of several ways. You can
wonder what other people are going to think about it or why God is allowing this to happen. Or you can ask God what
He is trying to teach you. Since God is in everything in some fashion, even in such a sticky situation, the proper
response is for you as a believer to get God's perspective. The same God who gave you the job is the One who allows
it to be taken away.
God knows exactly what it takes to get our attention, and often it is through highly unusual circumstances that we stand
back and take note of what God is doing in our lives.
God uses the circumstances of failure to get our attention. The nation of Israel had already come to the Promised
Land. Their first responsibility was to take the city of Jericho, which they did. Their next challenge was Ai, a small,
sleepy town just up the road from Jericho. From all natural points of view, Ai would be a pushover compared to Jericho.
But the Israelite warriors made two terrible mistakes.
First, God told Joshua that all the booty and gold and silver in the city of Jericho was His. However, one man, Achan,
decided to keep some of the treasure for himself, and he buried it underneath his tent.
Second, when the Israelites went to Ai, the Scripture implies they simply decided to conquer it; they had no real military
strategy, no real direction from God. Overconfident, they sent a small band of soldiers to quickly dispose of Ai. Joshua
7:5 describes the unexpected result: "The men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before
the gate...and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water." The
mighty Israelites had been defeated. And, no doubt, much fear gripped them because news of their catastrophe would
spread throughout the land. Joshua's response is recorded in verse 6: "Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the
earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their
heads." You see, God got Joshua's attention by letting him fail in a military endeavor.
When God has blessed us spiritually or financially, when God has done something super in our lives, that is the time to
remember Ai. His blessing should bring about a response of thanksgiving and praise and our precise attention,
because following great blessings is the time for failure. It is just then that we must be ultrasensitive to the voice of God,
because all too often we become proud and egotistical and ruin God's purpose in blessing us.
As a result, He lets failure come. How many businessmen experience failure and wonder how it happened? Then they
simply turn right around and go straight back into the problem without seeking God's guidance on the matter.
I remember talking to a woman who described her experience with a home Bible study. Eager to reach her
neighborhood for Christ, she stuffed dozens of mailboxes with invitation. When the day arrived, she was ready with
several dozen baked goods and a couple of pots of coffee. Only three women came.
Rather than give up, though, she committed herself to finding a better way. After a few more attempts, she discovered
the women responded far better with a personal invitation. Today several dozen excited people attend her home Bible
studies. Failure became the stepping-stone to success.
There is a vast difference between failing and being a failure. A failure in a given incident could prove to be the greatest
stepping stone to success in our lives if we are wise enough in the midst of failure to give our attention to God. If failure
today can make us a success tomorrow, we should be willing to fail in the small things to succeed in the larger ones. We
simply must be willing to acknowledge our mistakes, tell God we blew it, and thank Him at the same time for gaining our
wholehearted attention. Failing does not make us failures, but failing and then responding properly can pave the way to
Sometimes to get our attention, God dries up our finances. The whole theme of the book of Judges is "every one did
what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6). Time after time the Israelites fell into idolatry and intermarriage with
members of heathen tribes. Judges 6:1-6 described the scene:
for seven years, and the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel. 'Because of the Midianites, the children of Israel
made for themselves the dens, the caves, and the strongholds which are in the mountains. So it was, whenever
Israel had sown, Midianites would come up; also Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against
them. Then they would encamp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no
sustenance for Israel, neither sheep nor ox nor donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their
tents, coming in as numerous as locusts; both they and their camels were without number; and they would enter
the land to destroy it. So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel
cried to the LORD.
When did they cry out to the Lord? When God took away every material good they had and drove them into the dens
and caves, where they hid for their lives. God knew exactly what it would take to get their attention - the destruction of
all their material possessions.
Has God ever dried up your finances? At one time in your life your finances may have been like an ocean. Then they
became like a sea; dried up to a river, trickled into a stream - Then they were gone. For the average man, this is often
the toughest way for God to get his attention. Yet the believer's response is often faulty. He thinks if he tithes, God will
not shrivel up his finances. However, if anyone tithes and deliberately disobeys God, God certainly uses monetary woes
to make that person seek His face.
God did not contradict His Word either when He said through Paul, "My God will supply all your needs according to His
riches and glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19 NASB). He knows our greatest need is to listen to Him. That's far
more important to God than any material gain.
I know several people whose finances God devastated. They had nothing left, but God had their attention. Such
intervention forced them to face critical issues in their spiritual walk.
During World War II, industrialist R.G.K.'s machines were as much a part of the Allied success as the armed forces
themselves. His gargantuan machinery, moving earth and rubble, paved the way for runways on several Pacific islands.
K. was also a committed Christian, and he made God his full partner in his business endeavors, giving to God and His
work in superabundant fashion. In the late 1920's, however, when business was still growing for K., he decided to put
what he termed "God's share" of the profits back into the business, promising God He would receive a bigger portion the
The next two years were some of the worst K. experienced. Profits shrank. Debts mounted. Work projects became
nightmares. Then K., remembered his earlier pledge to the Lord, reinstated it and, within a year, recovered from his
financial reversals. God had used the red ink to gain his attention.
The issue is not how much money God does or does not take away. That has nothing to do with it. The issue is the
means God uses to get our attention. The Israelites' response to their predicament was to cry out to God. God
listened, delivered them from the Midianites, and blessed them.
Tragedy is sometimes a circumstantial method by which God gains our attention. Numbers 21:4-7 describes some
events that happened to the Israelites.
Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the
people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: "Why have you
brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this
worthless bread." So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people
of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD
and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people.
We can't always view tragedy in a person's life as a sign of God's disapproval, but we should look at every tragic
situation through a spiritual filter. Though that is a difficult assignment, people such as Joni Eareckson Tada are living
evidence of God's sovereign design in calamity. When she was a young teenager, full of God's vibrancy, Joni's life was
radically altered one summer afternoon when she dove into a pool of shallow water. In the twinkling of an eye she was
introduced to the numb world of quadriplegics.
Months of despair in a hospital did little to bring any hope for her now-shaky future. The eternal question "How can God
allow this?" danced on her lips day and night. Then steadily her faith in the love of God for her began to surmount her
anxious and sometimes bitter queries.
In subsequent years, she developed the remarkable capacity to paint with a brush gripped in her teeth. Her heart for
God grew by leaps and bounds and a ministry to millions began, a ministry birthed and nourished by tragedy. Her
books, movies, lectures, and special outreach to the handicapped have made her overcoming life a familiar story to
most Christians worldwide.
How many thousands of devoted Christians have been called to the ministry through the life of Jim Elliot? When he was
killed by the Auca Indians in his late twenties, it seemed on the surface an untimely death and loss. Yet his wife's
recounting of his life, heart, and actions for God in Through Gates of Splendor, The Shadow of the Almighty, and The
Journals of Jim Elliot has been the spiritual catapult to thrust untold numbers into the fields "white for harvest" (John 4:
Sickness and Affliction
Hezekiah was a godly king. The Lord had blessed him on many occasions and had delivered him by striking down
185,000 invading Assyrians (see II Chronicles 32). Verses 22 and 23 tell the jubilation that resulted.
Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and
from the hand of all others, and guided them on every side. And many brought gifts to the LORD at Jerusalem and
presents to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations thereafter.
Then suddenly, in verses 24 and 25 the scene darkens. "In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death, and he
prayed to the LORD; and He spoke to him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor
shown him, for his heart was lifted up, therefore wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem."
Hezekiah became gravely ill. Why do you think he was struck with such sickness? I don't think God just "happened" to
put in the verses that matter of Hezekiah's pride. He obviously gained Hezekiah's attention concerning his pride through
One way God uses to get our attention is through sickness or affliction. For example, God secured the attention of Saul
of Tarsus on the Damascus road by knocking him to the ground and blinding his eyes. For three days he couldn't see
anything. Wouldn't that get your attention?
I do believe in healing. I believe the Scripture in James 5:14 that says, "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the
elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord."
When I was in the hospital for several weeks, God dealt with wonderfully. He used my illness to painfully get my attention
so that I would hear His voice. If someone had prayed for God to heal me, I would have missed one of the greatest
spiritual times in my entire life. I needed to hear from God. We have to be very careful in the area of healing, because
God will often use an illness to cause us to examine our lives.
As I look back in my diary, I see that in every instance when God allowed me to be physically immobilized, I had usually
done something foolish to put me in that position, like picking up a wheelbarrow and hurting my back. Each time God
brought me to a decision that had to be made and forced me to face an issue I would have avoided otherwise.
God doesn't use the same methods on everyone. He knows exactly what it takes in your life to get your attention - a
restless spirit, a word from others, blessings, unanswered prayer, or unusual circumstances. He may use one today,
and then He will employ a different one three weeks from now, something else months away, or an entirely different
strategy two years from today.
What is important is that God cares enough to employ various and sundry methods to cause us to stop and listen to
what He is saying. He is not about to let us walk into an open manhole without giving us clearly discernible danger
signals. He is out to give us specific guidance and help us move into His wonderful plans and purposes for our lives.
He will not let us wander aimlessly through the snarled interchanges of everyday life without pointing us to the
appropriate signposts He has already erected. He does so by gently speaking to us.
Our problem is not that we doubt God's ability and desire to communicate, but we are all too easily stumped as to how to
identify His voice. Since we are His sheep and His sheep "know His voice" (John 10:4), there must be some perceptible
clues as to the nature of His conversation.
HOW TO LISTEN TO GOD, by Charles Stanley, Copyright 1985, Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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